From the Rav’s Desk: Using a rubber hot water bottle on Shabbos to relieve pain

  1. Question: [Thursday, 7th Adar 2, 5782]

I am suffering from stomach pains and the only thing that seems to relieve the pain is a hot water heating bag. My question is regarding if I may use this on Shabbos, and if yes, may I fill it up with hot water on Shabbos or must it be filled with hot water from before Shabbos?



Yes, you may use it on Shabbos to relieve your stomach pain or for any other purpose. You may likewise fill it up with hot water on Shabbos, although it is best to do so using a Keli Sheiyni. [Meaning, that you pour the hot water into a cup and from the cup into the bag.] In all cases, even during the week, you must make sure that it is tightly closed so hot water does not spill on you accidentally.

Explanation: The Talmud and Poskim explicitly rule that it is forbidden for one who has stomach pains to place on his stomach a vessel that has hot water, although he may place on his aching stomach a hot vessel that has no hot water in it. Now, it is debated amongst the Rishonim as to the reason behind this prohibition. According to Rashi, it is due to the bathing prohibition as he may come to spill it on majority of his body and it will thus be considered as if he has washed majority of his body in hot water, which is forbidden to be done on Shabbos. However, according to the opinion of Tosafos it is forbidden to be done so on Shabbos due to the Rabbinical “medicine” prohibition, as even external medical treatments that are treated for ailments are forbidden to be done on Shabbos if they can also be treated using medicine. [Seemingly, the reason behind why Rashi does not worry of the medicine prohibition with a hot cup of water is because we don’t generally treat stomach aches with medicine, as explicitly writes Admur in 328:45, and hence the decree of Shechikas Samimanim does not apply. Vetzaruch Iyun Gadol, as this defies reality, as notes the Ketzos Hashulchan, as well as that it is difficult to accept that Rashi and Tosafos are having a Machlokes Bemetzius regarding if stomach aches are treated with medicine or not. Hence, the Ketzos Hashulchan answers that even according to Rashi one must say that it is common to treat stomach aches with medicine and the reason that Rashi nonetheless holds that placing a hot cup of water on the stomach does not transgress the medicine prohibition is because it is not recognizable that it is being done as a form of healing, as many people do so for mere warmth, or to prevent stomach aches. However, Tosafos holds that only a minority of people do so for this reason, and hence it is recognizable. Vetzaruch Iyun]

The practical ramifications between these reasons is regarding the amount of water that is prohibited to be placed in the cup, the temperature of heat of the water that the prohibition applies to, and regarding if the prohibition applies even if the bottle is closed and spillage will not occur. According to the reason of Rashi, if there’s either very little hot water in the cup which was heated before Shabbos, or the cup is closed shut, or the water is merely warm and not hot, then it should be permitted to be used on Shabbos, as the worry of it spilling and coming to bathe majority of one’s body with hot water is not applicable. However, according to the opinion of Tosafos, the prohibition would extend in all these cases as well as it is nonetheless considered a form of medicine which is under the medicine prohibition. [However, it would be permitted even in his opinion if the cup is empty of hot water, as this is not a recognized form of healing, being that it is common for people to place a hot dry pad on their body even for non-healing purposes.]

Now, both reasons of Rashi and Tosafos are recorded in the Magen Avraham and other Achronim. Practically, however, Admur only writes the opinion of Rashi [and completely omits the reason of Tosafos brought in the M”A], that the reason behind the prohibition is due to the bathing prohibition and not due to the medicine prohibition, and writes that the prohibition is likewise due to the worry that the hot water may come to spill and burn one’s skin, and hence even during the week, it may not be done. Accordingly, the Poskim of today conclude based on Rashi [and other reasons] that if the vessel is properly closed, in which case there is no worry of spillage, then it is permitted for one to use it on Shabbos. Thus, it is permitted for one to use a safe hot water pad on Shabbos so long as it is properly closed, whether his intent is medicinal or simply to warm himself up. [Now, although some Poskim write that when done for medicinal purposes it may only be done in a time of great need or pain, or if its not recognizable as being done for medicinal purposes, such as if its common to do so for warmth in ones current climate, practically, according to Admur who completely omits the reason of Tosafos, it may always be used if closed, even initially.]

Now, regarding how to fill it up on Shabbos with hot water, one should only use a Keli Sheiyni to pour hot water into it, as perhaps there is cold water left inside from a previous use. Now, although it is permitted according to many opinions to pour hot water on Shabbos even from a Keli Rishon into water that was previously cooked and has since cooled off, nonetheless, it is proper to be stringent in this. This is aside for the fact that sometimes people wash it out and water that was never cooked remains in the pad.

Sources: See regarding the prohibition of placing a hot cup of water on stomach: Admur 326:5; Michaber 326:6; Shabbos 40b; See regarding the allowance to place a cup without hot water onto the stomach: Admur 328:45; Michaber 328:40; Shabbos 66b; Iglei Tal Tochein 25 [permits only if in great pain due to medicine prohibition. Vetzaruch Iyun Gadol on his Chidush which is omitted in all Poskim, and certainly does not apply according to Admur ibid]; See Ketzos Hashulchan 138 footnote 31 in great length and that the allowance applies even by a mere Michush, in negation of Iglei Tal ibid;  See regarding the reason behind the prohibition of a cup with hot water: Admur ibid; M”A 326:7; Rashi and Tosafos on Shabbos ibid; P”M 326 A”A 6; M”B 326:19; Kaf Hachaim 326:24; Biur Halacha 326:6 “Shepiamim”; Ketzos Hashulchan 138 footnote 31; See regarding if the cup may be used if it is closed: Makor Chaim 326 [that may place under pillow to warm up]; Karban Nesanel Shabbos Perek Hakirah 9:7 that it is a dispute between Rashi and Tosafos; M”B 326:19 in opinion of Rashi, and Admur ibid which only records Rashi’s opinion, that it is permitted and in name of Karban Nesaanel that according to the reason of Tosafos, even a closed bottle is forbidden to be placed on the body; M”B ibid and Kaf Hachaim ibid, and conclude that one may only be lenient on Shabbos in a time of great need or pain as they suspect for the opinion of Tosafos. However, according to Admur ibid, it should be permitted without issue; Ketzos Hashulchan 138 footnote 31 concludes that according to Rashi it may be used if closed, and that so is the implied position of the Michaber and Tur, although he makes no mention that Admur rules like Rashi, and seems to suspect for the opinion of Tosafos; Ateres Moshe 1:109; Beir Moshe 1:33-15; Or Letziyon 2:36-1; Orchos Rabbeinu 3:246 in name of Chazon Ish; SSH”K 34:11; Piskeiy Teshuvos 328:67 footnote 534;  See regarding pouring from a Keli Rishon into water: Permitted: Admur 318:20; Taz 318:18; Tosafos Pesachim 40b; Tur 318; Rashba, Ran and Rif on Shabbos 20a; Elya Raba Y.D. 68; Peri Megadim Yoreh Deah 68; Iglei Tal Ofeh 29; Tzemach Tzedek Mishnayos Shabbos 3:5, brought in Ketzos Hashulchan 124:12 footnote 31, and Tehila Ledavid 318, in understanding of Michaber/Admur;Piskeiy Teshuvos 328:67 footnote 534 Forbidden: M”A 318:35; Tosafos Shabbos 42a that pouring on a minute amount of cold water is forbidden; Tzemach Tzedek Mishnayos Shabbos 3:5, brought in Ketzos Hashulchan 124:12 footnote 31; P”M 318 A”A 35; Gr”a; Chayeh Adam; Tehila Ledavid 318:28; M”B 318:78 and 85; Biur Halacha 318 ”Vehu Shelo”; Kaf Hachaim 318:130; Ketzos Hashulchan 124:11-12; Igros Moshe 1:93; 4:74; Minchas Yitzchak 9:30-31; Beir Moshe 6:110; ; Az Nidbaru 2:20; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:207; Piskeiy Teshuvos 318:51; See regarding if previously cooked and cooled off: Tzemach Tzedek Mishnayos Shabbos 3, brought in Ketzos Hashulchan ibid footnote 31; Ketzos Hashulchan 124:12; Shevisas Hashabbos Hakdama Mivashel 19; Or Letziyon 2:30-10; Beis Meir brought in Biur Halacha “Vehu” that those that are lenient do not need to be protested; Igros Moshe 4:74 Bishul 18; Piskeiy Teshuvos 318:51


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